Not so long ago, a mention of the City of Porterdale elicited skeptical looks.
Those looks are going to be fewer and fewer as the reputation of the Newton County city with the Yellow River running through it continues to grow. Porterdale is turning into a place where people want to be.
It wasn’t always that way. As recently as 2012, there were landlords in the city who provided substandard housing to renters. Mayor Arline Chapman said changing the housing culture was important.
“To me, one of the biggest problems was the slumlords. I was absolutely amazed at the conditions some people were living in - it was just unthinkable,” she said. “So between the police department at the time, and code enforcement, we started to work with the landlords.
“Some of the landlords started to sell out and I realized how neat the houses were.”
Chapman said the culture of slum-lording had left tenants intimidated, with many fearful if they reported problems, they would be kicked out of their homes.
“Just by being open, and talking to people,” she said, “that flipped.”
Chapman said the changes in the housing culture brought about changes in Porterdale’s residents.
“Over time, with a more caring and better government and good planning, I can see a big difference in the children. I see a big difference in the people walking around the streets.”
Chapman said developing a comprehensive plan and becoming eligible for grants enabled the city to start to developing and improving its parks. Those include the Yellow River Park which has become a destination for kayakers.
“What you see as the Yellow River Park now, you couldn’t even see the river,” she said, “We started getting grants and we started taking park, and the kayak stuff was going on. We were able to get a grant to put in the kayak launch.
“Prior to that, people were just sliding down the mud into the river. Now, we have that beautiful kayak launch.”
After the Yellow River Park, the city worked to improve its other parks, cleaning them up and adding picnic tables.
It also developed free libraries at playgrounds to give children the opportunity to own and read books.
“We put those little free libraries all over the city at no cost to the city at all. It was all volunteer work and that’s an ongoing thing,” she said, “The books are donated, there’s no library fee, the books are there.”
All the changes in have not gone unnoticed. Porterdale was recently named by Georgia Trend magazine as one of the state’s top three live, work, play small towns. Chapman said houses in the city are in demand.
“We have all these young people moving in, living in the lofts, buying houses. The houses are selling just about like hotcakes,” she said, “If you want to do the work yourself, or you want to put a little money one of these houses, you know you’re going to get a really good return on your investment.”
The mayor said she would like to see development along the city’s Crowell Road corridor.
“The traffic count on Crowell Road is greater than the traffic count for Highway 81, “she said, “So my feeling is now that the Waffle House is there, I would like to see Crowell Road going past the Waffle House because there’s potential there for another chain restaurant, or people have been crying out for a grocery store. I hope one of the grocery stores will go in there.”
Looking to the future, Chapman said she sees more home ownership in her city.
“I see more homeowners. I see our business community being more energized,” she said, “I see recreation continuing to build. I see a different attitude among the people – I think it’s going to be more of a working- together, enthusiastic community of people who take pride in what’s happening here.
“And I just see more and more of these houses selling. I think it’s a place where people will enjoy coming. I think they feel safe here.”
City Manager Bob Thompson said, “Professors in urban planning want their students to end up helping to design a town like Porterdale and they did this back in the first part of the 20th century. It’s just perfect.”
He added, “Porterdale is a true live, work, play community. People want to be here.”